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« Lean times for the green blob | Main | Our biggest problem is poverty »
Saturday
Nov282015

The Times does climate

Respected professor, or international laughing stock?The Times has a trio of articles on climate this morning, from Mark Lynas, from Matt Ridley, and from science editor Tom Whipple. Matt Ridley is doing the good news on global warming, Lynas is doing the "right wing people must do as I say" thing. But it was Whipple's piece that caught my eye. This was because he opened by shooting himself smack bang in the middle of his foot. As a way of getting attention this is hard to beat.

He achieved this feat of public relations when he described a Royal Society meeting and

...a talk by a respected professor who expected the summer collapse of Arctic ice before 2020. The problem, for those listening, was that this same professor had previously given different dates — 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Yes folks, he means Peter Wadhams, who I think it's fair to say is not actually much respected at all - he is actually seen by both sides of the climate debate as a bit of a noodle. Whipple does seem to have cottoned on to the fact that Wadhams was wildly wrong, but he seems to be under the impression that he will be right in the near future. I'm not sure how convincing this is.

Whipple also schools us all about extreme weather, and in particular about typhoons:

In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines — less because of the strength of its winds, than its storm surge. Before the industrial revolution a storm of precisely the same scale as Haiyan would have hit with the same speed, but that surge would have been 20cm lower.

This is anecdote rather than data of course, and the data is fairly clear that there has been a decline in tropical hurricanes in recent decades. But if it's anecodotes being traded, perhaps it would be better to think about Typhoon Hyphong in 1881, which killed 20,000 people at a time when the poplulation of the Philippines was less than 5 million; Typhoon Haiyan killed less than a third of that number when the population was 100 million.

Whipple then does the full hockey stick, by claiming that:

...human civilisation developed in a period with a temperature range that we have just breached.

Which rather seems to finish the article where it began, discussing science so shonky that only the most politicised find it convincing.

Ho hum.

 

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Reader Comments (63)

This is how the world works. Big business frames the debate. Green loonies vs right wing loonies. In comes Mr Sensible Science to give us the cold hard facts. It's worse than we thought. You are all going to die. Hand over your money.


The idea is to deflect from the reality which is ....

Nov 28, 2015 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

The lead editorial " Climate Control" looks to be fully onside too.

Nov 28, 2015 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

While it's possible to fool everyone some of the time and some of the people all of the time, the latter almost never read the Times. Drip by drip, warmists erode their credibility by telling the most transparent lies.

Nov 28, 2015 at 11:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

...human civilisation developed in a period with a temperature range that we have just breached
#
////
Absolutely not. This comment demonstrates a complete failure to know or understand human history. Do these people not know anything. I often wonder what did they learn at school? Is education really that bad?

The cradle of mankind is from the warm climes of Africa. Whilst our distant ancestors can be traced back of some 3.5 million years (or so), modern man has been around for about 200,000 years. But despite this lengthy existence, all significant advances have taken place within the short period of the Holocene, ie., the present interglacial warm period.

But it is even more stark than that, all major advances in civilisation and significant skill sets (the advance from the bronze age to the iron age) have taken place since the Holocene Optimum. It is only when the planet began to warm up that man began to thrive, and one can trace the rise of civilisations and the acquiring of skills (eg., bronze to iron age) by the warmth of the climate.

Both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid were built at approximately the same time, but (whilst not wishing to disparage the undertaking that was involved in building Stonehenge) one is a crude structure with just a few slabs of stones resting on top of another, and the other is such a wonderous structure that we still do not know today how it was built!

In fact, its building is beyond our comprehension. We see the Great Pyramid today as it has been ravaged by time, but it still inspires awe, and we would be even more dumbstruck if we had seen it in its heyday shining in the sun. No modern structure will be around in 5000 years. The accuracy and precision of this structure is amazing, especially given the crude tools and equipment available. The base of the Pyramid was carved out of the bedrock of the Giza Plateau using copper chisels and is level within about 2.1 cm over an area of more than 230 metres. Even today, we do not build with significantly better precision. But there is a reason why the Egyptians could build such monuments and the dwellers of Wiltshire could only pile a few stones on top of each other, and that is due to climate.

In Egypt the climate was benign and bountiful and people could therefore time was not spent simply surviving, seeking to survive one day to the next, and had spare time to learn language, writing and skills that could be passed from father to son. Whereas in Wiltshire it was cold, and survival was a daily chore and there was no time to learn the skills that the Egyptians learnt since all time was spent surviving from day to day in a not particularly friendly climate. the only skill set passed from father to son was survival.

have a look at the advance of civilisations, Egyptian, Minoan, Greek, Roman, Northern European and it can be traced in accordance to the warmth of the climate. There has never been a highly advanced civilisation from cold climates, and it is no coincidence that there are no major cities in very cold places, and yet cities can flourish in warm climates such as Dubai, UAE, Qatar etc. To the extent that there was an advanced civilisation from high Northern latitudes, this was the Vikings and it is no coincidence that they came to the fore during the Viking Warm Period when conditions were benign.

You only have to look at the globe and see that least biodiversity is in cold arid climes (e., Antarctic plains, or even the Arctic), most biodiversity in warm and wet climes (particularly tropical rain forests). All the large animals that feed off land are in warm climates (polar bears could not live in the Arctic if it were not for the fact that they feed off the sea). Many animals that venture away from the mid latitudes are forced to hibernate because winter is just far too cold.

Go back in geological time and we have the dinosaurs who enjoyed a warm climate,

Everything we know about life on Earth tells us that warm is good and cold is bad. In particular, man has flourished in warm times (Holocene Optimum, Minoan Warm Period, Roman Warm Period, Medieval Warm Period) and has suffered in cold times (prior to the Holocene, and during the LIA) Bring on more warmth, that would be a godsend for all life on this planet.

This planet of ours, is a water world inhabited by carbon life forms. The by products of burning coal is CO2, and burning other fossil fuels is CO2 and water, and this is just what a water world inhabited by carbon life forms thrive on. Bring on more CO2 as this will aid plants and those at the base of the food chain

Nov 28, 2015 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

richard verney

You are debating with a liar. It's like playing chess with a dog. He can swallow your king any time he likes.

Nov 28, 2015 at 11:23 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

esmiff:

Much like the lies of Lord Stern,

Seville, 26 May 2014.- The Focus-Abengoa Foundation today opened the Energy Transition and Climate Change School. Lord Stern gave the opening lecture:
http://www.abengoa.com/web/en/noticias_y_publicaciones/noticias/historico/2014/05_mayo/focus_20140526.html

"Lord Stern admitted that he had underestimated the risks of climate change, saying “Emissions are at the limit or above the forecasts that were made, and some forecasts have even occurred earlier than expected, such as artic melting or ocean acidification. Indeed, CO2 levels have risen from 280 parts per million (ppm) in 1800 to 400 ppm today, while there has been a 5ºC rise in temperatures that has not been seen in 30 million years”.

A total falsehood, yet he is one of those driving the global warming bus.

Nov 28, 2015 at 11:47 AM | Registered Commenterdennisa

When the Whipplewoolfalls,
all over your eyes.......

Nov 28, 2015 at 12:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Dennisa @11.47 "Lord Stern.........is one of those driving the global warming bus"

His wheels have just come off;
;
http://www.thegwpf.com/solar-company-faces-biggest-bankruptcy-in-spanish-history/

Nov 28, 2015 at 12:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenese2

Whipple probably thinks civilisation didn't start until the British began drinking tea.

Nov 28, 2015 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

dennisa quotes Lord Stern "......there has been a 5ºC rise in temperatures that has not been seen in 30 million years”.

I can only assume that he was referring to the Late Oligocene warming which occurred 23 million years ago when temperatures recovered from a fall of similar magnitude which occurred following the opening of theDrake Passage 10 million years earlier. To compare a period of modest warming in the late 20th Century. Many warming and cooling episodes of similar magnitude have been recorded in the Holocene of which at least four have occurred during the Holocene Climate decline of the last 4000 years.( World Data center for Paleoclimatology, NOAA Paleocimatology Program). Lord Stern is disingenuous to say the least - or extremely poorly informed of the Paleoclimatological reality.

In central Greenland dO18 data indicate that air temperature during the last Glacial Maximum was about 20ºC colder than at present ( Johnsen et. al.2001). Permafrost data gives values of temperature depression during Glacial periods, with 15ºC being recorded in the Midlands of England and East Anglia and values even larger than this throughout much of France and Germany and values of 10-15ºC for parts of central North America ( Bell and Walker 2005, French 1996). Averaged across the British Isles data suggests mean annual temperatures of around -10ºC ( Atkinson et.al. 1987). A long pollen sequence from La Grande Pile in eastern France shows a mean annual temperature of under 0ºC during the last Glacial Maximum - a temperature depression of over 15ºC in relation to today ( Guiot et.al. 1993). Evidence from the southern Appalachians of the south-east USA [also] indicates a mean annual temperature around 0ºC ( Brook and Nickman 1996) [ also implying a 15ºC temperature depression in relation to the present day].

The above citations make it transparently clear that there was a temperature rise of in the order of 15ºC in the northern hemisphere from the Last Glacial Maximum to the present day - or indeed more than 12ºC even to the nadir of the Little Ice Age. A warming episodes of equal, or even perhaps slightly larger, amplitude also occurred 14,500 years ago at the start of the Bolling Interstadial. and at the end of the Younger Dryas cold period.

Moreover these temperature rises all occurred while atmospheric CO2 concentrations were at "pre-industrial" levels - whatever that was it was almost certainly lower than the 280- 450 ppm range that has been measured between 1800 and the present day.

I would personally be most interested to know on what scientific studies Lord Stern has relied on to justify his assertion that :-" ....a 5ºC rise in temperatures that has not been seen in 30 million years”.

Nov 28, 2015 at 12:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaleoclimate Buff

I find it very troubling that someone can rise (rise?) to become science editor of The Times and yet both set and then stumble into his own trap.

Perhaps he woke up this morning, re-read his own words in cold print and realised what he had done.

Then again...

Nov 28, 2015 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterUncle Badger

Paleoclimate Buff, the beauty (?) of Stern for the alarmists is that he can mix and match whatever worst case climate scenarios he likes, and throw them into whatever worst case economic models he chooses to like.

As the Stern report is quoted with such authority by climate alarmists, and revered by journalists, it it really is a case of the blind, relying on the blind, in directing everybody else over a cliff.

Nov 28, 2015 at 1:25 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Before the industrial revolution a storm of precisely the same scale as Haiyan would have hit with the same speed, but that surge would have been 20cm lower.


And so? The industrial revolution didn't make the sea rise, it was already doing so. What a dipstick.

Before the industrial revolution the locals might only have had to walk only 20cm less far up the beach. (Even this is disputable, because they might have built their village at the same distance from the ocean.)

They wouldn't have had to worry about a "house" made from sheets of corrugated iron and matchsticks being flattened, because it was before the industrial revolution and corrugated iron hadn't been invented. They only had sticks and grass and mud. If they had had the full benefits of the industrial revolution then they could have got in their cars when the severe weather warning appeared on TV, and driven inland to escape the worst ravages of a typhoon. Or driven to a shelter made of concrete, also perfected after the industrial revolution.
Jeez.

Nov 28, 2015 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Ginger bombshell Rebecca Brooks is back at the Murdock Stable and The Times tabloid sister paper The Sun is not buying any Global Warming ,Climate Change BS.

OT Currently BBC 1 Sport Celebrity spotting in the pit lane at the Abu Dharbi Grand Prix practice session . See if I can spot the same people in Paris next week

Nov 28, 2015 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

Peter Wadhams has turned the disappearance of Arctic Ice into such a joke that even climate scientists hoping to preserve some credibility stay away from the subject.

What the Science Editor of the Times, is trying to do for the credibility of the Times, at this 'crucial' time in climate science credibility, and the credibility of the Times, does suggest he is an idiot. Surely the Editor and Proprietor of the Times don't wish to be associated with such failed ideology, after Yeo's fine example (plus costs) of greed vs truth and honesty?

Nov 28, 2015 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

At the Commonwealth Heads meeting in Malta, Cameron's closing Press waffle disclosed that the main heads of discussion and agreement had been on Terrorism, Climate and Corruption, although none of these it seems were deemed to be interrelated.
Questions from the reporters present studiously ignored the Climate change discussions, seeking clarification instead on Syria and Grant Shapps part in bullying in the Conservative Party.
On the eve of the Paris talkfest it would appear that interest in the AGW scam has sunk to a new low.

Nov 28, 2015 at 2:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterroger

It takes someone truly innumerate to think that 20cm lower sea level would be of any benefit during a typhoon, when, as someone mentioned, people would have built right by the sea anyway because they depended on fishing and trade by boat. The storm surge during a typhoon is on the order of 10 to 20 FEET. 20cm makes no difference at all.

Nov 28, 2015 at 3:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterCraig Loehle

richard verney,
You make a good point but may I suggest you miss the obvious when you raise this question,

This comment demonstrates a complete failure to know or understand human history. Do these people not know anything.
They may well know enough history to see that the dangers of warming are ridiculously over-estimated.
And they also know that most of their readers know enough history to see that the dangers of warming are ridiculously over-estimated.
So he can only be talking to those who really don't know enough history to see that the dangers of warming are ridiculously over-estimated.

It's the same reason that spam emails use poor spelling and grammar when trying to scam people.
They want to weed out the sensible from the start.

Nov 28, 2015 at 3:04 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

Matt Ridley and Benny Peiser have a piece in the Wall Street Journal ...

Your Complete Guide to the Climate Debate
At the Paris conference, expect an agreement that is sufficiently vague and noncommittal for all countries to claim victory.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/your-complete-guide-to-the-climate-debate-1448656890

Nov 28, 2015 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpeed

The Times, Mark Lynas: Why is it that some scientific issues become so politically polarised? Hundreds of independent studies have established beyond any reasonable doubt that the genetic modification of crops is a safe technology, and yet the green left continues a decades-long denial of the science. On the other side of the political ledger, and especially relevant as world leaders assemble for next week’s Paris climate conference, much of the right continues to dig itself deeper into the hole of denying the very science of global warming.

Twice wrong!

GMO studies could show the risk is low, perhaps acceptably low, but with such a complicated system as an 'eating human', over several generations, proving safety, complete safety which is implied, is delusional. We are not even talking of any particular modification either! Keeping proofs in the geometrical arena is good advice.

And 'denying the very science of global warming', is just irony. But then, what do you expect from Mark Lynas?

"Mark Lynas (born 1973) is a British author, journalist and environmental activist who focuses on climate change. He is a contributor to New Statesman, The Ecologist, Granta and Geographical magazines, and The Guardian and The Observer newspapers in the UK; he also worked on the film The Age of Stupid. He was born in Fiji, grew up in Peru and the United Kingdom and holds a degree in history and politics from the University of Edinburgh.[1] He lives in Oxford, England. He has published several books including Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet (2007) and The God Species: Saving the Planet in the Age of Humans (2011). He has stated "I think there is a 50–50 chance we can avoid a devastating rise in global temperature."[1]"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Lynas

This is the Age of Stupid. That is becoming truer by the day, but just not in the way expected by the Greenies!

Nov 28, 2015 at 3:47 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

Could someone please post when and where these articles may be read without signing away your stuff (including the WSJ article).

Nov 28, 2015 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Norman

"Whipple also schools us all about extreme weather, and in particular about typhoons:"

This is Richard Lindzen, writing in 2005, on extreme weather:

"That the promotion of alarm does not follow from the science, is clearly illustrated by the following example.

"According to any textbook on dynamic meteorology, one may reasonably conclude that in a warmer world, extratropical storminess and weather variability will actually decrease. The reasoning is as follows. Judging by historical climate change, changes are greater in high latitudes than in the tropics. Thus, in a warmer world, we would expect that the temperature difference between high and low latitudes would diminish. However, it is precisely this difference that gives rise to extratropical large-scale weather disturbances. ...

"Nevertheless, we are told by advocates and the media that exactly the opposite is the case, and that, moreover, the models predict this (which, to their credit, they do not) and that the basic agreement [that there has been some warming] signifies scientific agreement on this matter as well. Clearly more storms and greater extremes are regarded as more alarming than the opposite. Thus, the opposite of our current understanding is invoked in order to promote public concern."

Nov 28, 2015 at 4:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Foster

Episode 2: The Great Drought
When the last ice age hit australia 30,000 years ago, sea levels dropped 130 meters below today’s level.
deserts devoured 90% of the continent.the greatest drought in human history lasted 10,000 years,yet people thrived.

http://www.kimberleyfoundation.org.au/uploads/41632/ufiles/First_Footprints_Press_Kit_-_S.pdf

Nov 28, 2015 at 4:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterhusq

Has Peter Wadham ever conceded the glaring failure of his previous predictive texts?

Climate science depends on telling horror stories. Journalists and politicians love them too, and hope the public buys into them.

Presumably Wadham tops up his pension and ego by playing the jester of climate science, but he is beginning to look like one of the ugly sisters in chistmas climate pantomime, on the eve of the seasonal festivities.

Nov 28, 2015 at 5:07 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Wadhams seems to be using the chimpanzee method of hitting a target - throw enough darts and one is bound to hit the bullseye sooner or later.
And interestingly for Paris next week, I see today that Putin says he's not going until Turkey apologizes for shooting down his fighter jet. I expect Putin's is not joking and if NATO/ Turkey do apologize, Putin has just owned them once more. So all these silly climate doom articles are echo chamber stuff for the religious. It's not selling in the real world.

Promises to be an interesting week.

Nov 28, 2015 at 5:58 PM | Unregistered Commentermikegeo

Has Peter Wadham ever conceded the glaring failure of his previous predictive texts?
Why should he? Ehrlich never has!

Incidentally (and purely out of curiosity) since Lynas has a degree in politics and history from Edinburgh in what way does that make him more qualified than me to pontificate on climate? It would be nice to know, if he cares to stop by and tell me.

Nov 28, 2015 at 6:16 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Mike Jackson, with his the history side of his degree, Mark Lynas is more than qualified to lecture about the recorded history of the climate changing in the last 2, 000 years. He doesn't, in fact he chooses to ignore it.

With the Politics side of his degree, Mark Lynas is more than qualified to lecture on the abnormal politics that has surrounded climate science, since inception. He doesn't, in fact he chooses to be part of it.

If he wants to write a book about the failure of climate science, it's history, and failed politicians, Lynas is more than qualified and experienced, but to be credible, he will have to be honest about his role in the man made catastrophic mess. He will also need to get some articles and a book out fairly quickly, to get his retaliation in first, before too many liars end up in court.

Nov 28, 2015 at 6:47 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Guess Prof Lynas demonstrates what my professor in atmospheric physics said: It is extremely hard to become a professor, but is so easy to be one!

Nov 28, 2015 at 7:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterRPT

Lynas was one of the deep ecology (eco fascist) team with Paul Kingsnorth and Dark Mountain. He seems to have re-branded himself as a self styled eco modernist, but possibly not much changed.


Ben Pile's review of The God Species: How the Planet Can Survive the Age of Humans


"Although Lynas claims that this idea is both new, and founded on new science, the premise of this idea is the same as many other eco- centric perspectives: we live on ‘Spaceship Earth’, ‘Gaia’, in a ‘web of life’. The biosphere, says Lynas, comprises an ecosystem ‘characterised by near infinite complexity: all their nodes of interconnectedness cannot possibly be identified, quantified or centrally planned, yet the product as a whole tends towards balance and self-correction’. In the chapter on biodiversity, Lynas says: ‘By removing species, we damage ecosystems, collapse food webs and ultimately undermine the planetary life-support system on which our species depends as much as any other.’
In the late 1960s, Paul Ehrlich famously made dire predictions of doom, based on his attempts to model the biosphere and our relation to it, which failed to materialise. Nonetheless, his predictions helped to kickstart the contemporary environmental movement. In answer to Ehrlich’s failure to turn ecology into a predictive material and social science, environmentalists have claimed that what Ehrlich - and Malthus before him - got wrong was simply the ‘when’, not the ‘if’, in the familiar ‘not if, but when’ mantra. The failure, in other words, was merely in underestimating the resilience of ‘the system’, which in spite of Ehrlich’s failures is still presumed to exist. Lynas and his experts have merely sought to better estimate that resilience.


http://www.spiked-online.com/review_of_books/article/10941#.Vln6ktJ6TyM

Nov 28, 2015 at 7:23 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Roger at 2:57 - "Questions from the reporters present studiously ignored the Climate change discussions, seeking clarification instead on Syria and Grant Shapps part in bullying in the Conservative Party."
Jeez, don't you realise that Grant Shapps was caused by Climate Change. You need to keep up a bit more, Gaia is spinning. ;-)

Nov 28, 2015 at 7:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohnbuk

Paleoclimate buff. Excellent to see your post.

In a system that has swung repeatedly by over 10 Deg C (and as you point out with evidence for up to 15 Deg C) from glacial to interglacial periods over the last million years, the basic global warming tenet has us worrying about a change of under 1 Deg C in the 20th and 21st centuries. In other words, we already know from the best estimates made via oxygen isotopes that the present warming is under an order of magnitude less than measured natural variability.

It still amazes me that this type of evidence and data is totally ignored.

Natural variability versus CO2?

Hmmn, and we know natural variability is up to 10 times greater than any recent warming for which the jury is out on whether it is natural or man-made..

Nov 28, 2015 at 8:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterKeith

(including the WSJ article).
Nov 28, 2015 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Norman

Google - Your Complete Guide to the Climate Debate

WSJ article is top link. Doesn't work for Times articles.

Nov 28, 2015 at 8:25 PM | Unregistered Commenterclipe

"...Or driven to a shelter made of concrete, also perfected after the industrial revolution." --michael hart

Saying concrete was "perfected" after the industrial revolution is technically correct, but possibly a bit misleading. Concrete was in common use during Roman times, and many of their structures stand today, such as the Pantheon (still in use for weekly worship) and the Coliseum (no longer used for bloody spectacles).

Well before the industrial revolution, Roman concrete was "perfected" from a much earlier Nabatean mixture to yield roughly 3000 psi material (compression), a strength that corresponds to some common modern applications (e.g., patios). We'd build our concrete pantheons today with wire mesh and rebar added for higher tensile strength, but they'd look more or less the same, assuming we believed in gods and were given to constructing temples to them en masse.

Nov 28, 2015 at 8:28 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

@jeff norman

Your Complete Guide to the Climate Debate

At the Paris conference, expect an agreement that is sufficiently vague and noncommittal for all countries to claim victory.
By MATT RIDLEY And BENNY PEISER Nov. 27, 2015 3:41 p.m. ET

In February President Obama said, a little carelessly, that climate change is a greater threat than terrorism. Next week he will be in Paris, a city terrorized yet again by mass murderers, for a summit with other world leaders on climate change, not terrorism. What precisely makes these world leaders so convinced that climate change is a more urgent and massive threat than the incessant rampages of Islamist violence?

It cannot be what is happening to world temperatures, because they have gone up only very slowly, less than half as fast as the scientific consensus predicted in 1990 when the global-warming scare began in earnest. Even with this year’s El Niño-boosted warmth threatening to break records, the world is barely half a degree Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than it was about 35 years ago. Also, it is increasingly clear that the planet was significantly warmer than today several times during the past 10,000 years.

Nor can it be the consequences of this recent slight temperature increase that worries world leaders. On a global scale, as scientists keep confirming, there has been no increase in frequency or intensity of storms, floods or droughts, while deaths attributed to such natural disasters have never been fewer, thanks to modern technology and infrastructure. Arctic sea ice has recently melted more in summer than it used to in the 1980s, but Antarctic sea ice has increased, and Antarctica is gaining land-based ice, according to a new study by NASA scientists published in the Journal of Glaciology. Sea level continues its centuries-long slow rise—about a foot a century—with no sign of recent acceleration.

Perhaps it is the predictions that worry the world leaders. Here, we are often told by journalists that the science is “settled” and there is no debate. But scientists disagree: They say there is great uncertainty, and they reflected this uncertainty in their fifth and latest assessment for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It projects that temperatures are likely to be anything from 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 to 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer by the latter part of the century—that is, anything from mildly beneficial to significantly harmful.

As for the impact of that future warming, a new study by a leading climate economist, Richard Tol of the University of Sussex, concludes that warming may well bring gains, because carbon dioxide causes crops and wild ecosystems to grow greener and more drought-resistant. In the long run, the negatives may outweigh these benefits, says Mr. Tol, but “the impact of climate change does not significantly deviate from zero until 3.5°C warming.”

Mr. Tol’s study summarizes the effect we are to expect during this century: “The welfare change caused by climate change is equivalent to the welfare change caused by an income change of a few percent. That is, a century of climate change is about as good/bad for welfare as a year of economic growth. Statements that climate change is the biggest problem of humankind are unfounded: We can readily think of bigger problems.” No justification for prioritizing climate change over terrorism there.

The latest science on the “sensitivity” of the world’s temperature to a doubling of carbon-dioxide levels (from 0.03% of the air to 0.06%) is also reassuring. Several recent peer-reviewed studies of climate sensitivity based on actual observations, including one published in 2013 in Nature Geoscience with 14 mainstream IPCC authors, conclude that this key measure is much lower—about 30%-50% lower—than the climate models are generally assuming.

A key study published in the Journal of Climate this year by Bjorn Stevens of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, found that the cooling impact of sulfate emissions has held back global warming less than thought till now, again implying less sensitivity. So the high end of the IPCC range is looking even more implausible in theory and practice. When politicians intone that, despite the slow warming so far, “two degrees” of warming is inevitable and imminent, remember they are using high estimates of climate sensitivity.

Yes, but if there is even a tiny chance of catastrophe, should the world not strain every sinew to head it off? Better to decarbonize the world economy and find it was unnecessary than to continue using fossil fuels and regret it. If decarbonization were easy, then sure, this would make sense. But the experience of the last three decades is that there is no energy technology remotely ready to take over from fossil fuels on the scale needed and at a price the public is willing to pay.

Solar power is cheaper than it was, but even if solar panels were free, the land, infrastructure, maintenance and backup power (for nighttime and cloudy days) would still make it more expensive than gas-fired electricity. Solar provides about 0.5% of the energy generated world-wide. Wind has expanded hugely, but at massive cost, yet still supplies a little more than 1% of all energy generated globally. Nuclear is in slow retreat, and its cost stubbornly refuses to fall. Technological breakthroughs in the production of gas and oil from shale have outpaced the development of low-carbon energy and made it even less competitive.

Meanwhile, there are a billion people with no grid electricity whose lives could be radically improved—and whose ability to cope with the effects of weather and climate change could be greatly enhanced—with the access to the concentrated power of coal, gas or oil that the rich world enjoys. Aid for such projects has already been constrained by Western institutions in the interest of not putting the climate at risk. So climate policy is hurting the poor.

To put it bluntly, climate change and its likely impact are proving slower and less harmful than we feared, while decarbonization of the economy is proving more painful and costly than we hoped. The mood in Paris will be one of furious pessimism among the well-funded NGOs that will attend the summit in large numbers: Decarbonization, on which they have set their hearts, is not happening, and they dare not mention the reassuring news from science lest it threaten their budgets.

Casting around for somebody to blame, they have fastened on foot-dragging fossil-fuel companies and those who make skeptical observations, however well-founded, about the likelihood of dangerous climate change. Scientific skeptics are now routinely censored, or threatened with prosecution. One recent survey by Rasmussen Reports shows that 27% of Democrats in the U.S. are in favor of prosecuting climate skeptics. This is the mentality of religious fanaticism, not scientific debate.

So what will emerge from Paris, when thousands of government officials gather from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 to agree on a new U.N. climate deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2020? Expect an agreement that is sufficiently vague and noncommittal for all countries to sign and claim victory. Such an agreement will also have to camouflage deep and unbridgeable divisions while ensuring that all countries are liberated from legally binding targets a la Kyoto.

The political climate is conducive to such an ineffectual agreement. Concerns about the economy, terrorism and international security have been overshadowing the climate agenda for years. The fact that global warming has slowed significantly over the past two decades has reduced public concern and political pressure in most countries. It has also given governments valuable time to kick painful decisions down the road.

The next 10-15 years will show whether the global-warming slowdown continues or whether a strong warming trend terminates the current pause for good. The Paris summit is likely to agree to a review process that reassesses global temperatures and carbon-dioxide emissions every five years. If the climate is less sensitive to carbon-dioxide emissions than climate models assume, the new accord should allow for the possibility of carbon-dioxide pledges to be relaxed in line with empirical observations and better scientific understanding.

Concerned about the loss of industrial competitiveness, the Obama administration is demanding an international transparency-and-review mechanism that can verify whether voluntary pledges are met by all countries. Developing countries, however, oppose any outside body reviewing their energy and industrial activities and carbon-dioxide emissions on the grounds that such efforts would violate their sovereignty.

They are also resisting attempts by the U.S. and the European Union to end the legal distinction (the so-called firewall) between developing and developed nations. China, India and the “Like-Minded Developing Countries” group are countering Western pressure by demanding a legally binding compensation package of $100 billion a year of dedicated climate funds, as promised by President Obama at the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009.

However, developing nations are only too aware that the $100 billion per annum funding pledge is never going to materialize, not least because the U.S. Congress would never agree to such an astronomical wealth transfer. This failure to deliver is inevitable, but it will give developing nations the perfect excuse not to comply with their own national pledges.

Both India and China continue to build new coal-fired power stations. China’s coal consumption is growing at 2.6% a year, India’s at 5%, which is why coal was the fastest-growing fossil fuel last year. China has pledged to reduce energy and carbon intensity, but that is another way of saying it will increase energy efficiency—it doesn’t mean reducing use.

For the EU, on the other hand, a voluntary climate agreement would finally allow member states to abandon unilateral decarbonization policies that have seriously undermined Europe’s competitiveness. The EU has offered to cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 40% below the 1990 level by 2030. However, this pledge is conditional on all nations represented at the Paris summit adopting legally binding carbon-emissions targets similar to and as a carry-over of the Kyoto Protocol.

According to the EU’s key demand, the Paris Protocol must deliver “legally binding mitigation commitments that put the world on track toward achieving the below 2°C objective. . . . Mitigation commitments under the Protocol should be equally legally binding on all Parties.” The chances of such an agreement are close to zero. If there are no legally binding carbon targets agreed to in Paris, the EU will be unlikely to make its own conditional pledges legally binding.

Any climate agreement should be flexible enough so that voluntary pledges can be adjusted over the next couple of decades depending on what global temperatures do. The best we can hope for is a toothless agreement that will satisfy most governments yet allow them to pay lip-service to action. In all likelihood, that’s exactly what we can expect to get in Paris.

Mr. Ridley is a columnist for the Times (U.K.) and a member of the House of Lords; he has an interest in coal mining on his family’s land. Mr. Peiser is the director of the Global Warming Policy Forum

Copyright ©2015 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Nov 28, 2015 at 8:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterPcar

It's amazing that the hockey stick still cannot be killed off. What else about science does this science journalist know eff all about?

Nov 28, 2015 at 8:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Pcar, from my understanding if copyright, you can't do that.

You can quote bits but you can't take the whole thing.

Our Host, The Bishop needs to take that down before the end of Monday (next working day), in my opinion.

Nov 28, 2015 at 9:05 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

JamesG, the Hockey Stick forms an uncomfortable crutch to support the body of climate science. Climate scientists cannot admit this, because if it is damaged or removed, they will all fall over.

Nov 28, 2015 at 9:20 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Saying concrete was "perfected" after the industrial revolution is technically correct, but possibly a bit misleading. Concrete was in common use during Roman times, and many of their structures stand today, such as the Pantheon (still in use for weekly worship) and the Coliseum (no longer used for bloody spectacles).
[etcetera]
Nov 28, 2015 at 8:28 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

jorge, I used the word perfected quite deliberately to avoid using the word invented. Now a pedant would say it also isn't perfected, but I would rather shelter from a class V hurricane in a modern concrete building than something built by the Romans. I'm surprised you also didn't point out that they could build hurricane shelters from stone, assuming the pre-industrial Phillipines had learned how to quarry stone. Need I go on?

Nov 28, 2015 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

[snip advisable. BH]

Nov 28, 2015 at 9:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterPcar

jeffnorman,
You can also frequently find a lot of alternative sources for things on the web by searching on a long string from the abstract (often any whole sentence is more than long enough). Like watching movies online, some may be legitimate, some may not. You must make your own judgements. But as Pcar implies, you should not necessarily assume yourself or the source to be guilty.

Nov 28, 2015 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Pcar, OK.
Not my dog in this fight.

But it still feels wrong to me. It's the output of an entire work project you've passed on for nothing.
It feels like theft - even though I'm not a legal expert.

Nov 28, 2015 at 10:08 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

@michael hart: I think you are being a little bit churlish re your comments on Roman concrete (and don't forget they also came up with a hydraulic cement, that wasn't replicated until the 19th century).

There are plenty of examples of Roman structures involving 'their concrete' that have survived for millennia. On the other hand, there are plenty of post-industrial concrete structures that have failed within decades, particularly when they involve rebar to hold them together.

Nov 28, 2015 at 10:23 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

michael hart, I agree. The invention/rediscovery of Portland cement in about 1850 (as opposed to using traditional lime) produced a more reliable and predictable concrete that achieved 'strength' within 24 hours. Along with engineering deveopments in metals, this allowed concrete to become a material of large scale engineering projects, rather than a simple gap filler with compressive strength.

The design and construction of the Coliseum and Pantheon are brilliant. The Coliseum is a series of brick arches, the Pantheon is a dome built with a series of (in situ cast?) concrete blocks. The great cathedral domes of St Paul's and St Peter's (for example) required engineered bodges to make them 'work'.

Nov 28, 2015 at 10:30 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

[snip O/T}

Nov 28, 2015 at 10:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterOliver K. Manuel

When you have this political reality being acknowledged ( along side what we know China, India and Russia to name a few are going do despite anything said in Paris) why don't they just cancel Paris

" 27 Nov: Reuters: David Ljunggren: Canada backs U.S.: climate deal should not be legally binding
Canada on Friday backed the U.S. approach to major climate change talks in Paris, saying any carbon reduction targets agreed at the negotiations should not be legally binding.
The announcement by Environment Minister Catherine McKenna could irritate host nation France, which wants any deal to be enforceable....."

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/27/us-climatechange-canada-idUSKBN0TG1YF20151127#BTfkzSyTTSIvcTOP.97

Nov 28, 2015 at 11:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss


don't forget they also came up with a hydraulic cement, that wasn't replicated until the 19th century.
Nov 28, 2015 at 10:23 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian


Umm... that would be during the industrial revolution, when I indicated the improvements took place.


There are plenty of examples of Roman structures involving 'their concrete' that have survived for millennia. On the other hand, there are plenty of post-industrial concrete structures that have failed within decades, particularly when they involve rebar to hold them together.


Any badly built structure can fail, and Roman structures haven't had to withstand hurricanes in the Philipines' climate. The first time I went to a humid climate in the tropics the first thing that struck me was what appeared to be accelerated decomposition of concrete.

Churlish? I don't think I started the pedantry about this 'What-have-the-Romans-ever-done-for-us'.

Nov 28, 2015 at 11:14 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

from the little i can access on this, Lynas states -

"On the other side of the political ledger, and especially relevant as world leaders assemble for next week’s Paris climate conference, much of the right continues to dig itself deeper into the hole of denying the very science of global warming."

from wipi
"A ledger[1] is the principal book or computer file for recording and totaling economic transactions measured in terms of a monetary unit of account by account type, with debits and credits in separate columns and a beginning monetary balance and ending monetary balance for each account."

as for "dig itself deeper into the hole of denying the very science of global warming" -
that's the settled sience that predicts ever rising temps year on year as man made CO2 increases, even if the slow warming we now see is not in the least scary to anybody who has a passing knowledge of this planets recent history.

Nov 28, 2015 at 11:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterdougieh

Salopian, the failure of reinforced concrete is normally due to corrosion of the steel reinforcement. Steel won't corrode in a highly alkaline environment, which concrete is. If the concrete covering the concrete is too thin, or it cracks, allowing regular rainwater to wash in, the steel corrodes, expands and spalls the concrete, allowing fresh corrosion etc.

Making precast panels, with steel fixings that allow them to be bolted together, was going to fix the UK's housing problems, with tower blocks like Ronan Point, and 'systems built houses' such as REEMA, AIREY, ORLIT etc having fallen out of favour, having partially fallen down. The problems were with the fixing of the panels rather than the concrete.

The media latched onto the term concrete cancer (actually alkali silica reaction) to mean a generic concrete defect

Accelerating the curing process with High-Alumina cement was not a success either.

Reinforced concrete is a sound method of construction, tarnished by examples of people cutting corners for reduced time, increased profits, and poor workmanship. No, I would not want to live in a concrete house, but for structural and civil engineering it is excellent.

Nov 28, 2015 at 11:56 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Michael Hart:" I don't think I started the pedantry about this 'What-have-the-Romans-ever-done-for-us'."

"Now a pedant would say it also isn't perfected, but ......."Nov 28, 2015 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Nov 29, 2015 at 12:09 AM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Nov 28, 2015 at 10:30 PM | golf Charlie

... required engineered bodges to make them 'work' ...

Tut,tut, engineers don't do 'bodges':

... required sophisticated engineering to make them work ...

Nov 29, 2015 at 1:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

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